Thursday, 27 January 2011

Newham Council Ignores Mandatory Requirements On Spending Data

At the beginning of December, I wrote about a promise made by Newham council - that in response to the new local authority requirement to publish every item of its spending over £500 by the end of January, it would "comply with the regulations regarding publication of payments set out by Government".

The guidance issued by the Department of Communities and Local Government in September last year says that councils should publish spending on a monthly basis, in CSV format, with the detail of "all individual invoices, grant payments, payments to other public bodies, expense payments or other such transactions", broken down into meaningful expense areas and including supplier names.

The deadline of 31 January is now looming and Newham council has finally managed to place some information online. And guess what? They've completely ignored the mandatory requirement that information is published in CSV file format and instead issued a 115-page PDF file, making it incredibly difficult to analyse. Neither has the council provided a 'licence to reuse', meaning that technically others will need prior written permission to reproduce the data.

It is possible to plough through and find the details, for example, of the council's expensive consultants (look out for the expenditure type 'external advice' and the name 'Kingsgate Interim'), but the local authority has made it as difficult and inaccessible as possible.

Why am I not surprised?


I asked 'Information Governance' at Newham council to explain why their previous commitment had been broken and they promised to get back to me - by 25 February!!!


Mike Law said...

Thanks for following this up Kevin.

It's something I've had in my to-do list.

The format is unhelpful, but I'm sure you'll do exactly what I'm going to do: roll your sleeves up and trawl through it with a fine-toothed comb.

Mike Law said...

Worrying number with info listed as redacted personal data!

Kevin said...


I thought so too - and it's worth reading this to see what Croydon council have been up to on redacting names:

I've followed up my FOI request from November 2010, which has the promise to 'comply with the regulations' in its response, to ask the council why it has failed to do honour its commitment.

Mike Law said...

Please post the response you get.

The PDF lists 11,131 payments... how's that for being an anorak?

Anonymous said...

There is one missing, --total should be 11,132

Mike Law said...

I'll bite...

Which payment is missing?

Anonymous said...

Hope you enjoyed the bites of your Sunday lunch....

Payment 11,132 is to the Council Taxpayers of Newham for the cost of producing and publishing all this stuff.

Mike Law said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Law said...

I’d say it’s a necessary expense, and I doubt that it costs very much to compile the list (unless Newham Council records all its financial transactions on wax tablets). It does go some way to giving us a little more information on how the current Town Hall administration spends public money.

In any event, there are 1250 redacted transactions listed. Most are for health and social care or children and young people’s services, so there is an argument for confidentiality (although I don’t see what harm it would do to list the agency and company names of service providers).

However, 28 of the redacted items are for other expenditure such as “non housing capital schemes fees and charges” (total expenditure over two payments £332,363.20). All 28 items come to a total of £391,539.26.

macuser_e7 said...

Just FYI, there is now a .csv file available for download, which will make analysis far more straightforward.

macuser_e7 said...

The 11,131 payments are for a total of £38,777,684.

There are 1,247 named payees.

The top 5 payees (by amount paid) were:

LOCAL SPACE LTD - £3,332,899
NEWHAM HOMES LTD - £2,290,157
BADENOCH & CLARK T/A PPS - £1,276,615

Other payments that caught my eye:


Mike Law said...

Thanks. That's saved me a fair bit of time,

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